[Note: This is a sponsored Guest Post contributed by the staff at KinderCare Learning Centers.]
As a DMV or NOVA family, your Instagram feed likely has a shot (or 10) of your child under the cherry blossom trees on the National Mall or gallivanting around the Smithsonian. But raising a child in the District is about more than these photo-worthy moments. It’s also about giving your child plenty of chances to explore and learn at their own pace — and joining a childcare community that feels just right for your family.
Of course, just finding care can be a challenge in the DC area. There aren’t nearly enough childcare spaces for all the babies and toddlers that call the area home. Luckily, KinderCare Learning Centers recently opened more centers to help meet the need, including the South Riding center in Chantilly and two brand-new centers at Penn Quarter and the Watergate building.
An early childhood education company that’s been at it for 50 years, KinderCare is laser focused on what children growing up today need to be ready for kindergarten — and beyond. “Studies show that children who attend high-quality programs are better prepared for school, have higher high school graduation rates, and even have better long-term health,” says Dr. Elanna Yalow, KinderCare Education’s chief academic officer.
How does that translate into great centers for children? Take a look!
1. Every child should have space to thrive.
When children enter a KinderCare center, they know it’s designed just for them—because it is! Each classroom is filled with toys at kid-eye level and places where tots can create, express themselves, play, and pretend. It’s also a “print-rich environment”: Books are readily available and words are everywhere, which help plant the seeds for strong literacy skills. It’s a perfect place for busy toddlers whose personalities are just beginning to emerge (sometimes with gusto)!
2. Creativity means more than drawing inside the lines.
While writing on the walls probably isn’t something parents want to encourage at home (unless they invest in some whiteboard paint), children have plenty of opportunities to express their creative side at KinderCare! For little ones, painting and drawing this fuels creativity, builds fine-motor skills, develops symbolic thinking, and creates a sense of community and ownership in the classroom when children see their masterpieces hanging on the walls.
3. Books are within easy reach of little hands.
No tall bookcases here! Placing books within easy reach makes reading super accessible — and that encourages book love. Instead of waiting for an adult to bring a book over, kids can initiate story time all on their own. When they’re little, KinderCare teachers teach children how to be gentle with books and treat them kindly. Teachers also know that one way kids learn to read is by associating simple written words with objects. So, in KinderCare classrooms, teachers label things like chairs and tables to give children a head start on their ABCs.
4. We like to play pretend.
ROAR! Playing with animal toys lets kids make new sounds and play pretend. Also known as dramatic play, playing pretend helps children work on problem-solving and social-emotional skills like cooperation — and it’s also tons of fun! When an adult is playing with a child, it’s important to get down to the child’s eye level (like KinderCare teachers do) to help them connect.
5. There’s no right way to play.
KinderCare teachers let kids play their own way. That’s why there’s plenty of unstructured play time into the day. Toys and learning materials in classrooms are open-ended (with multiple uses) so kids can explore their imaginations. Who says trucks have to roll? Putting a car on a toy scale helps children learn about cause and effect, and other foundational math and science concepts. (And they don’t even know they’re doing some Capital “L” Learning!)
6. Take time to craft outside the box.
Sometimes there’s no such thing as too much glue! Part of being a great artist is doing what you want and not playing by the rules. In art activities, KinderCare teachers provide children with lots of different materials and let them decide how they want to be creative. This kind of independent thinking builds critical — thinking skills and self-reliance. In KinderCare classrooms, kids are encouraged to think outside the box. It’s all about the process, not the product.
7. Eat your fruits and veggies.
She thinks she’s just playing grocery store, but she’s also learning about healthy eating through dramatic play. But KinderCare centers have more than just pretend fruits and veggies in their centers! Their Nutrition and Wellness philosophy makes it all the way to kids’ plates, where meals are accompanied by fruits, veggies, and whole grains. KinderCare centers never serve a drop of juice because fruit is sweet enough to eat.
8. Caring for each other is key.
When children pretend to take care of a baby, they’re actually developing critical social skills that will help them become kind and empathetic friends later on. That’s why everyone at KinderCare believes in nurturing kindness in all kids, starting from day one. Each center has plenty of baby dolls, toys, and learning materials that represent all children—it’s okay to play with whatever you want, whoever you are!
9. Yes — you can do it!
Developing fine-motor skills starts with simple toys — exactly what kids need when they’re just learning to solve problems and get those oh-so-cute little fingers to do what they want. Though they may seem “easy,” simple toys teach little kids that they can take on a challenge — and succeed. By working through the toy with an adult by their side who can ask questions like “What color goes next?” and “Which one fits?”, children also develop important language and literacy skills.
10. When in doubt, act it out.
Kids have big feelings—and sometimes those feelings can be tough to cope with. Enter the family of adorable classroom puppets, who make everything just a little less personal. If a child is having a hard time learning a behavior used in a social situation (sharing, for example), puppets are a great tool to help kids understand without making them feel bad. KinderCare teachers also use puppets to help kids learn how to manage and express their feelings in a positive way. Each KinderCare center has lots of puppets for teachers to use as tools for learning and storytelling — but when teachers aren’t using them, they’re available for kids to play with whenever they want.
To learn more about KinderCare Learning Centers, visit them online at www.KinderCare.com, on Facebook or on Twitter. For resources, information, and activity ideas for parents and teachers of young children, visit the KinderCare Blog.